Edwin Catmull

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Edwin Catmull

Edwin "Ed" Catmull (born March 31, 1945 in Parkersburg , West Virginia ) is an American computer scientist who has contributed to many important developments in computer graphics . He is a four-time Oscar winner and received the Turing Award together with Pat Hanrahan in March 2020 .

Early on, Ed Catmull was inspired by Disney films like Peter Pan and Pinocchio and dreamed of becoming an animator for feature films. Looking at reality, he decided that his talents would lie elsewhere. Instead of pursuing a career in the film industry, he enrolled in the University of Utah in physics and computer science . There he made his three fundamental contributions to computer graphics: Z-buffering , texture mapping and B-splines . He also developed an anti-aliasing algorithm . However, the Z-Buffer was already described months before by Wolfgang Straßer in his dissertation without being given this name there. In an early contribution to the film industry, he created an animated version of his left hand in 1974 for the film Futureworld (1976), the science fiction version of the film Westworld, and the first film to use 3D computer graphics.

After receiving his doctorate , he worked for George Lucas at Lucasfilm . There he helped develop digital image compositing for combining multiple images. In 1986, Catmull and Steve Jobs founded Pixar . At Pixar, Catmull was a major developer of the RenderMan rendering system used in films such as Toy Story and Finding Nemo .

In 1993 the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) presented Catmull with its first Academy Award , "for the development of the RenderMan software, which creates images with shape and form from three-dimensional computer data." In 1996 he received another Oscar, " for groundbreaking developments in image compositing ” . In 2001 he received his third award "for remarkable advances in the rendering of moving images as shown in Pixar's RenderMan." In the same year he also became President of Pixar Animation Studios. After the takeover of Pixar Studios by the Walt Disney Company, Catmull became President of Walt Disney Animation Studios and its subsidiary DisneyToon Studios together with John Lasseter .

In 2006 he was awarded twice: for the concept of the subdivision surfaces as a modeling technique with another Oscar ( Technical Achievement Award ) and with the John von Neumann Medal "for fundamental contributions to computer graphics and a pioneering role in the use of computer animation in feature films" . In 2009 Catmull received the Gordon E. Sawyer Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for Lifetime Achievement. In 2013 he became a Fellow of the Computer History Museum . For 2019, Catmull and Pat Hanrahan received the Turing Award in March 2020 for their pioneering work on Computer Generated Imagery .

Catmull is a Mormon .


  1. Wolfgang Straßer: Fast curve and surface display on graphic display devices . Dissertation, TU Berlin, submitted on April 26, 1974
  2. AMPAS press release , January 6, 2009.
  3. ^ Cade Metz: Pixar Pioneers Win $ 1 Million Turing Award . In: The New York Times , March, 2020. 
  4. Biography in Famous Mormons in Mathematics ( Memento of September 24, 2007 in the Internet Archive )

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